Thursday, September 24, 2020
Sept. 24, 2020

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Highway 500 work set for weekend

Rain washed out an earlier plan to reset traffic signals

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

There’s a Russian idiom that translates to “the first crepe always comes out wrong,” meaning a person has to try more than once to succeed.

After getting rained out on its first try at reconfiguring state Highway 500, the Washington State Department of Transportation hopes a second try this weekend will be successful.

To do a traffic reconfiguration project, the agency needs to close part of the highway between St. Johns Boulevard and Northeast Andresen Road. Drivers are likely to see construction crews setting up in the area prior to closure.

The plan is to have the highway completely reconfigured and reopened by 4 a.m. Monday.

Workers will remove the stop lights at the intersections of Northeast 42nd Avenue/Falk Road and Northeast 54th Avenue/Stapleton Road and replace them with right-in/right-out interchanges. The goal is to reduce accidents in that two-mile stretch.

When the work is done, motorists will no longer stop for a red light, nor will they be able to make a left turn.

About 60,000 vehicles per day travel Highway 500, with close to one crash every three days. WSDOT transportation analysts think that the reconfiguration will reduce collisions in a crash-prone area by as much as 70 percent.

WSDOT scheduled the project for this weekend because the forecast calls for dry weather. Dry conditions are crucial for this project because the highway and side streets will be restriped at the two intersections. Crews will also divide the highway with concrete traffic barriers. Little if any paving will be necessary. The highway’s pre-existing shoulders are thick enough to withstand vehicle traffic. However, it is the rainy season, so the work could be postponed again.

The total project is expected to cost almost $1 million. Cascade Bridge was awarded the construction contract.

“We want to give notice today so folks can make travel plans ahead of time,” said WSDOT spokeswoman Tamara Greenwell.

While the closure is in place, drivers should expect extra traffic on nearby parallel streets, including Fourth Plain Boulevard and Northeast 40th and 44th streets.

The crosswalk at Northeast 54th and Stapleton will be removed. WSDOT expects to build a new underpass or overpass for pedestrians when money is available, likely in three to five years. C-Tran has agreed to provide free shuttle service around the intersection.

Riders will have to make reservations. On the hour, a shuttle will pick them up from a spot just north of Highway 500 on 54th and take them to a station on Stapleton.

Then, at 10 minutes after the hour, it’ll take passengers from Stapleton to 54th.

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